JOURNEYS INTO THE WINTER WILDERNESS: AN EXPLORATION OF THE TRADITIONAL WINTER CAMPING EXPERIENCE
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This thesis reports on a phenomenological study designed to examine the traditional winter camping experience from the perspective of the participant. The specific research questions that guided this study were: (a) What are the personal meanings that traditional winter campers attach to their experiences? (b) What factors led to their decision to take up the activity of traditional winter camping? (c) How has participation in traditional winter camping affected changes in their own attitudes towards nature, wilderness travel, personal identity and feelings of self-reliance? and (d) What are the unique learning outcomes that could be achieved by including traditional winter camping activities as part of outdoor education experiences? The participants in this study were eight people who regularly participate in traditional winter camping activities. I conducted semi-structured interviews with them in order to discover the attachments, significant aspects and personal meanings that they see in relation to their traditional winter camping experiences. Analysis of the data revealed three core themes that were central to the experiences of traditional winter campers. These are: connection to the land, sense of community, and personal empowerment. The findings suggest that participation in traditional winter camping activities may have an impact on physical, mental and social well-being, and may help to foster pro-environmental attitudes. The thesis research also illuminated unique aspects of this activity and participants’ experiences. Suggestions for continued research are described, which may provide further insight into this phenomenon.